Residents and proponents of older neighborhoods struggle in a never-ending battle to save abandoned homes all the while attempting to convince residents that outward flight to cookie-cutter suburbs only hastens the decline of the urban core.
This past Monday’s Journal-Gazette contained a front page article by Dan Stockman describing a new policy the City wants to establish. The City wants to selectively demolish homes it thinks are eyesores and “cancers” in a neighborhood even though those homes may not be ready for the wrecking ball. Private property interests will again be assaulted to accommodate official views of how a neighborhood should look.
Since 1990, Fort Wayne has demolished over a 1,000 homes. Any guesses where those houses are located? Take a drive through the east central part of Fort Wayne. Vacant lot after vacant lot greets drivers as they head west on Washington or Berry or east on Wayne or Jefferson through the East Central Neighborhood. The southeast part of Fort Wayne also has its share of empty lots.
Recently, my own neighborhood – West Central – has seen increasing demolition of abandoned homes. In addition, a number of fires have broken out in vacant homes, leaving them prime candidates for destruction by the City. Fires leave homes unsafe and with little to restore, so the most obvious solution is to demolish the homes.
The following is an abstract of the City’s 2003 Housing Strategy Recommendations.
|Title||City of Fort Wayne Housing Strategy Recommendations|
|Description||In August 2003, the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, along with a number of private and non-profit partners, published a strategy to revitalize the city. In the report the city acknowledged that it needs to set goals and adopt a comprehensive set of policies for growth and neighborhood revitalization. The city and its partners identified twelve issues that affected Fort Wayne’s housing environment. From those issues they created eight goals and a number of coordinated steps to reach those goals. In those steps were a number of regulatory issues. In Recommendation 3.3 the report suggests that the city improve the permitting office’s customer service through conducting a customer satisfaction survey. They also suggest publishing all policies and procedures in short brochures and on a city Web site. Additionally, in Recommendation 5.2, the authors suggest the city develop a parcel-basemap to identify property in the city. Further, they suggest the creation of a housing development coordinator to assist developers with various development rules and regulations. (5.3) In Recommendation 5.6 they suggest revising the demolition protocol of the code enforcement program to reduce the chance of a building being demolished if it can be rehabilitated and sold instead. Further they suggest revising the tax code to encourage rehabilitation and redevelopment (5.7 and 5.8). They also support the consideration of inclusionary zoning ordinance provisions (8.7).|
|Organization||City of Fort Wayne, Indiana|
Demolishing homes in the urban core creates empty lots, which, in turn, decreases the property tax base. A list of properties currently up for demolition can be found at the City’s website. The City appears to be working at cross-purposes in that it stresses saving the urban core and undertakes revitalization efforts on one hand and on the other hand seeks to put in place a new policy which will only hasten demolition of homes the City deems unworthy of saving.
The new policy will allow the City to determine not only the terms of demolition of abandoned homes which has been within its purview but also the terms of demolition for those homes not yet ready to be torn down. All for the sake of its own vision of our urban neighborhoods.
If our City’s urban core is to be saved, continued demolition of existing, older homes is not an acceptable solution. Instead, the City should be providing every possible incentive to buyers to return to the urban core and revitalize the older homes instead of providing the very wrecking ball to destroy those homes.
West Central Neighborhood – Historic neighborhood with older homes
East Central Neighborhood – older neighborhood showing the effects of demolition. Notice the empty lots and lower density than the West Central Neighborhood.